Final Fantasy: All The Bravest insults what little faith fans had left in Square Enix releasing an affordable iOS adventure. Few gamers would defend the company’s double-digit pricing models on the App Store, and when Square Enix teased a fee of $3.99 for All The Bravest, the developers aroused immediate suspicion. That meager cost appears to be a bargain, netting buyers a roster of eminent sprite-based heroes, the series’ harmonic melodies, a stable of hostile pseudo-mythological monsters, and 40-person battles. But once players happen upon the revolting list of in-app purchases, that base – or was that debased? – price makes a disgusting amount of sense.
The ATB system (short for Active Time Battle) sets the stage for All The Bravest, because dispatching creatures from the franchise’s core titles remains the single interactive part of the experience. In true retro Final Fantasy fashion, enemies inhabit the left side of the screen while the heroes stand rank and file on the right. To trigger an actual attack, players simply tap their fighters or slide their fingers across their iDevice to initiate colorful combos. Those fatigued protagonists then enter a cooldown phase, waiting for their ATB gauges to replenish before they commence another assault. This process repeats ad infinitum as you automatically journey across plains, pirate ships, and castle ramparts, brute-forcing your way through waves of Cactuars, Flamehounds, and Tonberries.
Final Fantasy, you always fail miserably in your attempts to be edgy.
An ally’s job (Black Mage, Thief, Warrior, etc.) does determine whether he or she performs a blunt strike or launches a magical blitz, but even these variances are largely hollow. There are no skills to learn, items to use, armor to equip, or the option to select specific targets in battle. Even the White Mage – the group’s dedicated healer in any other Final Fantasy – chooses a life of combat over one of purity. Every three hours, the game allows you to enter Fever mode, a pivotal limit break that briefly removes the party's constricting ATB meters and decorates the background in seas of neon pigments. These barrages prevail as the real (and only) highlights of All The Bravest.
Sure, avoiding the pitfalls of a melodramatic narrative and cliché villains sounds like a logical move on Square Enix’s part after negative reactions to Final Fantasy XIII and XIII-2, but that concludes the game’s breadth of depth – tap, swipe, activate Fever mode. Seriously, gamers face button-mashing quick-time events with more heart than All The Bravest.
Never have I seen more liberal use of rainbows beyond Nyan Cat or Robot Unicorn Attack.
And when I begin praising technicolor acid trips in a series renowned for its emotional contexts and turn-based strategy, we have truly ventured astray of what the Final Fantasy name means. But suppose the buyer’s remorse has not yet delivered a steel-toed kick to one’s groin. Players assume “control” of a handful of heroes at the start, though the party quickly grows to a dozen through arbitrary leveling. A raid of 20 warriors may seem plenty to steamroll such evils as Garland, Golbez, and Zeromus in seconds. Except the keyword there is "may." Enemy attacks cannot be interrupted, and characters faint after a single hit.
Once the team inevitably wipes, players must choose one of several unattractive options should they wish to continue the adventure. Each party member will recover after three minutes. Now do the math. For a faction of 40 sprites, that equates to several hours before gamers can brave a boss once more. If you do find your pockets lined by too much money, you can also buy back the team’s vitality through a set of rejuvenating hourglasses. As for the final and least poisonous alternative, you could return to earlier stages and grind for levels, though the difficulty scales to the party’s growing size.
How could a trailer containing so much potential turn out to be such a disastrous cash-in?
Not content to simply prey on consumers through a budgeted Final Fantasy app, Square Enix goes one step further and dines on the fans’ nostalgia. All The Bravest contains 35 ‘premium’ characters from across the series' timelines. Cloud, Lightning, Auron, Cecil, and Terra could all be yours for a dollar apiece, and building a select force of polygonal characters digitized into 16-bit sprites shows signs of intrigue before the appalling truth comes out. All The Bravest guarantees one thing: doling out your favorite heroes through randomized outcomes. (Was that a jaw dropping I just heard?) Yes, you may purchase a character pack in hopes of adding Kain to the compendium, only to receive Red XIII instead. We have already neared $40 in paid content alone, yet the microtransactions get worse. Square Enix charges an additional $3.99 for 2D locations of Midgar, Zanarkand, and Archylte Steppe, amounting to roughly $50 total before taxes.
Although such ports as Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy IV contain an understood quality and quantity uncommon for other handheld titles, these compact purchases cost more than ten times what people normally pay for a portable slice of gaming. But there are two elements from that sentence missing from All The Bravest: quality and quantity. Barely a game and barely deserving of this review’s rating, this interactive screensaver represents virtual extortion. If you have $3.99 to waste, give the money to charity. You will be doing humanity – and yourself – a greater service.
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Square Enix
Release Date: January 17, 2013
Number of Players: 1 (Campaign)
Platforms: iOS (Reviewed)